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Getting it off my chest


I started this blog as a means of reaching out to other betrayed spouses, in the midst of my own pain and healing journey.  I’ve always found that helping others is a great way to also help yourself.

As my story was unfolding, bit by bit, I would blog in order to obtain support, but also to show others going through the same thing that they weren’t alone.  As I reached a place of healing, I didn’t want to simply stop blogging, because I realized that blogging wasn’t simply about *ME* getting support, but also the giving of support to others.  I can’t tell you how many emails I receive, or comments left here on the blog from random strangers, telling me how helpful this blog has been to them.  I can’t tell you how much those comments mean to me, even today, after my marriage has healed.

The focus of the blog has shifted in recent years towards more of a place of healing and support for others.  I hope that it is that for you, if you have been betrayed.

I am also aware that this blog is also a place for OW’s and OM’s to get a glimpse into the mind of the betrayed spouse, and I suppose I should be grateful that they are interested enough in our experience to be looking up and reading a blog like this one, but my experience has shown me that usually, they are interested only in seeing the pain and devastation, in the rubbernecking into the misery of others in order to feel better about their own lives.   While not as numerous as the comments of support, I do from time to time, receive comments that attempt to belittle me, to belittle or invalidate my choices, to make me second-guess the happiness I have worked so hard to reclaim.  I can tell you without one shred of a doubt that these comments come from:

1. OW’s

2. Children born out of an affair

3. Those who have never been betrayed and who stand in their glass  houses throwing stones, having absolutely no clue about what they are contributing commentary on.

The reason I say the above is because no person who has ever experienced the devastation of a betrayal like this would ever dream of making un-supportive comments towards a betrayed spouse.  It would be like plunging a knife deeper into your own chest, because you fee her pain as she does.  You’ve walked in those shoes, and you know how they feel.  No one who has been through this would dream of inflicting further trauma.

 

OW’s: OW’s by the very nature of their actions have shown that they don’t care about the betrayed wife, and are in it for themselves, at whatever cost. It is the ultimate in selfishness, and then in later cowardly comments like “I didn’t owe the wife anything” (Read: I don’t have to atone for my poor choices to sleep with a man I knew had a family, and I can get off scot-free if I just point out that we didn’t have the contract).   That is so simplistic and a cheap way out.  In what other scenario can a person contribute to a wrong-doing, having had full knowledge that it was wrong, and when caught not have to bear any responsibility?   There isn’t one.

Children born of an affair:  These responders I understand completely.  Their anger is understandable, yet I don’t think it is constructive for them to take their anger out on me simply because my husband’s affair bore a child also.  Those who do comment who are children of affairs are likely carrying a great burden of anger and feelings of being unwanted, unplanned, not having a “real family”.   These aren’t even children from broken homes, they are children from a home that never existed, a family that never was.  Some hold anger because their fathers denied paternity for them.  Some are angry because their father’s never contributed to their upbringing, and they watched their single mother struggle to raise them without his contribution.   Others are angry because they’ve never met their father, and perhaps has chosen his children from his legitimate union over them, adding to their feelings of being unwanted, unloved, not-counting, and “not real”.   I feel a great deal of empathy for these children because affairs are never the choice of the child whose life is the result of the acts of two selfish others who were transiently involved.  They are also not the choice of the betrayed wife, so truly the OC and the betrayed spouse are the only true victims here.

People who have never experienced infidelity:  We all have opinions about many things in this world, some of which we have yet to actually experience, so our views are limited and possibly also incorrect.    This is the case for the readers who come to this blog and comment about how “if it were me, I would have ______”, and “I can’t believe you are so weak that you ________. If it were me, I would have ________”.   Look, every betrayed wife will tell you the SAME THING, and I know because I’ve spoken with and counseled many of them and that is that until they went through this, they thought they knew exactly what they would have done, and yet when the shit hit the fan, they reacted in a way they never would have expected.  I am a great example.  I blogged a long time ago about a friend who confessed her affair to me 6 months before my husband confessed his.  Speaking frankly with my husband about the situation, I told him if that ever happened to us, he could pack up and leave.  That didn’t play out that way because although you THINK you know what you would do, and how you would feel, you really don’t have a clue.  There is nothing in life that can prepare you enough emotionally for the devastation of an affair that you could accurately use your past life experiences to inform your choices post-disclosure.  You just won’t know until you get there.   So, while I understand the non-valid comments that some of these people make, I also like to encourage them to do a little reading into affairs before they post malicious comments on a blog of someone who has fallen, lived to tell the story, and gotten back up.  Mine is a success story, and it belongs to me.  What you think of it doesn’t matter.  Whether you agree with my choices doesn’t matter.  I live with my victory every day.  If you are on this blog, chances are you have an interest in infidelity or affairs or whether a relationship can survive one.  With that in mind, do some reading, do a lot of listening, and perhaps less judging, and see what you can actually learn from those who have been there, instead of what you suppose it might be like.

This past weekend, I was notified of three separate comments from the same reader within an hour.  She was obviously reading through the blog, and choosing to spew negative comments about my situation wherever she could.  At first, my response was very reactive.  I felt attacked.  I felt my story, the work I’d done, the pain I’d endured, that my husband had endured were being invalidated, and I desperately wanted to reply reactively.  But I was not in a place where I could quietly sit and ponder a reply, and so I sat on it while I went away with the family.   I discovered a few things: If you sit on things, they do get smaller.  A few days later, I didn’t have the same need to “put her in her place with her poorly informed comments”, and so I decided simply not to reply at all.  After all, the affair recovery for ME took a lot of time and energy.  I am always willing to give more to help others who are struggling with the same thing, but I refuse to spend my energy on readers’ comments which are clearly uninformed, cruel and show a sincere lack of support.  It isn’t my job to educate you on affairs, why they happen, and what the right and wrong outcomes are.   After all, the comments show already a closed-minded individual, and I am simply not prepared to forcibly pry it open in order to “reach you”.

That being said, I also discovered something interesting.  I am much less bothered by the comments that attack me than I am at the ones that attack my husband.  Those ones really get me going.  Let’s face it, there isn’t any substance in attacking a betrayed wife.  After all, I didn’t have the affair, and I didn’t make the choices.  I am simply being involved in the clean-up.   So those roll off my back pretty easily.  The ones that attack my husband…those are harder to take.

Let me be very clear.  I am not a weak, sad, pathetic, little wife who has ALLOWED her husband to walk all over her, who has ALLOWED herself to be taken advantage of, and who accepts her husband back into her life because she doesn’t think she deserves any better.   I am not a broken woman with low self esteem. I know full well that what happened had NOTHING to do with me, so my self worth isn’t suffering. I also know that if I were single, I would have no trouble reconnecting. I’m not with my husband out of desperation. I’m with him out of a genuine love for him, an understanding of his weaknesses and his immense lack of judgment, but moreso because he proves to me every day that he is deserving of the trust I have put back into him and I know he is worth the risk that once felt like. It doesn’t feel risky anymore, it feels secure. We worked hard for that. I worked hard for that. Those who claim he was let off the hook or got away with it, or that he wasn’t given the same heat and hatred given to the OW is simply incorrect. My husband and I went through a lot. Therapy, marriage retreats, suicidal ideation, immense sadness, complete marital breakdown…and we did it together and came out the other side. What you see as more anger towards her than him is simply the result of him having “made right what he did wrong” while she continues to do wrong. So yes….he has risen above her in my eyes, but they were at one time the same two scumbags who deserved to be together in hell. He’s just made all efforts to heal, while she continues to destroy. Therein lies the difference and what you see as being “let of the hook” is simply a man who has re-earned my respect. The OW you see as “bearing all the heat”, is simply a woman who hasn’t borne any responsibility.

I suggest readers go and read the in uninsightful replies both on this entry and others. It certainly helps me understand the kind of trolls that get wrapped up in garbage like this. These scumbag mistresses and bottom feeders all think the same way. Justify the behavior…see themselves as faultless…blame and hate the wife. Grow up people, and pick up some empathy on your way up. Instead of putting your energy into hating someone who has turned a trauma into a victory, go direct your energies to something positive. Hug a puppy.

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Toronto Affair Recovery Seminar


I am often asked “if you could pick one thing that propelled you forward in your healing, what would that one thing be?” Hands down, it was attending the “healing from affairs” weekend with Anne and Brian Bercht.

Anne and Brian are affair recovery specialists. They have helped hundreds and hundreds of couples heal their marriages. They have also helped hundreds and hundreds more who were interested in reconciling come to terms with the affair and forgive, allowing the betrayed spouse to no longer be at the mercy of the affair.

I have been asked by Anne and Brian Bercht to put out feelers to see if there are any readers near Toronto, Canada who would be interested in one of their seminars in April 2014?

In order to commit to offering it, they would require at least ten participants. In order to show your commitment only a $500 deposit would be required instead of full payment.

If you want to find out more about what they do, visit http://www.beyondaffairs.com
and check out “seminars”. It truly is life-changing and I can’t recommend their programs enough.

You need to know that these seminars rarely if ever come to that area, and rarely to Canada. If you live there, or can get there, take advantage of this opportunity. It won’t happen again for many years. Find change now.

Comment below if you would be interested in placing a deposit towards an April 2014 date so that they can make this happen for you!

Lifting the veil of taboo


Why is infidelity such a taboo topic?

Why are we all so keen to portray marriage as perfect bliss, with no problems?

Why are we so ashamed to admit that there are issues like this exist in a marriage?

Why does no one EVER want to talk about it?Why is there such judgment about it?The taboo of infidelity

Because I consider myself to be completely healed, I can say that I no longer feel the need to obtain support from others by telling them my story.   I don’t seek out others to tell in the hopes that they can offer me suggestiions, a shoulder to cry on, and ear to listen…I just don’t *need* that anymore.   And, although some of my friends know of our situation, most don’t.   I can say that in my desire to seek support, I feel that I did tell the wrong people.  Most of the ones I told aren’t in my life anymore, mostly because we weren’t such good friends, I suppose.  In some cases, learning of the affair pushed some away, either because they couldn’t handle the fallout, my constant need to talk about it, the way it monopolized the conversation, or all of the above.   Once I started to notice that those that knew were dropping off, I started to become more prudent in who I told…until I just didn’t need to tell anyone anymore.  I can now keep it to myself, but should I have to?
It’s interesting to me.  Over the last couple of years, my husband and I have befriended a couple through our children who were once at the same school.   We started to hang out with them socially, and really enjoy their company.  From time to time, the topic of infidelity has come up, as they have shared stories of work colleagues and other friends whose marriages have fallen victim to an affair.  In talking with them, not having once shared our story, I detect judgment from them about the topic. I can see quite clearly that they both are very quick to support the betrayed, and vilify the unfaithful spouse.  They both seem to be of the same opinion that an unhappy marriage should be exited before a new relationship started (I agree), but they also both seem to think that an unhappy marriage is what leads to affairs, and if you have been following my blog, or doing any reading on the subject, you will know that it’s not that simple.  While I appreciate the fact that their feelings on the matter support ME in MY position as the betrayed spouse, I also know that we could never tell them because it would jeopardize our relationship.  They would likely harbour very  negative feelings towards my husband, and if we told them now, they might feel betrayed themselves, knowing that we’ve discussed the topic together and never once told them that we have intimate knowledge about infidelity, having been there ourselves.  I have to say, though, that I do feel like a fraud not being able to share such a significant story of WHO WE ARE as a couple, with another couple that we are becoming close friends with.
I made a comment on Facebook the other day, about a mistresses as I watched the trial of Dr. Martin McNeill unfold, on trial for allegedly killing his wife Michelle in order to start a new life with his mistress Gypsy Willis.   My sister in law chimed in that married men who have affairs are the absolute scum of the earth.  I can’t help but wonder what that dinner conversation would look like if we told her that her brother in law, who both appear to hold in high regard, was guilty of that very thing?   Not only that, he fathered a child with his mistress and is paying child support for the next 19 years?  I think they might have coronaries right then and there, and given her comments, I can imagine it might cause a rift, so we remain quiet.It makes me sad when I think of how many of us are forced to stay quiet about these issues because we feel threatened to lose others around us if we tell?  It’s like a shameful secret that no one wants to talk about.  But, it is also a catch 22: The less we talk about it, the more secret and taboo it becomes, so the less we talk about it.  As someone who has been through it, who walked through to the other side, and who understands affairs so much better, I don’t feel shame in my story.  I feel pride.  My prior feelings of shame came from the belief that my husband’s affair was a refection of me as a bad wife, a bad lover, an incompetent partner, a lesser woman.  I now know that to not be true, so I do not feel shameful.  I would also venture to guess that my husband no longer feels as much shame as he once did because he now knows that his affair doesn’t reflect on him as a globally bad man.  He has taken the steps to make the proper amends and done the work.  Shouldn’t he feel proud?  Shouldn’t we both?   So why can’t we talk about it? Because we will lose friends and family…and that makes me very sad.

I try to live with authenticity.  I thrive when I have fewer more intimate connections with others.  Part of that intimacy is openly sharing the deepest parts of oneself with those you trust and care about, and I can’t have that with some that I would like to.  I have to wonder how the taboo of infidelity could ever be lifted?  I often feel like I am living a lie.  And, considering how prevalent infidelity has become, and that MOST of us will experience it at some point…shouldn’t we be talking about it?

 

Victim blaming or blog stalking?


I find in interesting to read the comments that are left on the blog. Some are meant for me, some are in response to other readers and their comments. Regardless, I’ve always taken an interest in how people relate to one another, how they respond, and how they perceive events.

It’s always been amazing to me how two people can witness the same event and walk away with very different interpretations of the events. How two people can witness a woman attacked, and one will see her as a helpless victim and try to help her up, while others will see her as having deserved it, and contribute to keeping her down. Interesting indeed.

I received this comment on the blog last weekend from a reader named “Kate” who says, in response to my “sermons from Facebook” post:

You are kidding yourself. No, you’re not responsible for the chivld coming into this world. But your husband is. Period. End of story. And it’s obvious you’re relishing the fact that he chose your kids over this poor little girl. Congratulations! You won. And the man you won is a miserable coward. You are responsible for depriving this innocent child of her father because you are selfish and insecure and won’t let go of his balls. Grow up! The fact that the OW is unstable does not justify your husband’s shirking histories parental duty. Rather, his involvement is all the more important. Your blog is a disgusting manifestation of ego and rage. I hope I never run across it again. Take it down. Get over yourself. Get a life. And encourage your husband to man up and be a father to this poor child You repulse me!

Wow. Amazing how her interpretation is that I somehow have ANY influence over my husband’s decision to see or know the child they created. Does she actually think that I prohibit him? Does she think that he wants a relationship and the only thing preventing it is me? Really? Where on this entire blog does it read that I wish for him to remain outside of her life and that I will steadfastly refuse him to have a relationship with his “daughter”? How did she come to THAT twisted interpretation?

Am I “relishing the fact that my husband chose my children over hers”? I’d be lying to say I am not pleased that he is honoring his commitment to the children he created in matrimony. Of course I am pleased he didn’t leave thm and chose to remain the same loyal and devoted dad to them. Of course I am pleased that I didn’t lose my family. Of course I am pleased that he chose to honor his family over a life with a whore. But I am pleased that my children have the father that their father at the expense of her loss? No. I don’t think a child should be fatherless. But, I also don’t think that women should target and sleep with married men and then stop their pill and suggest unsafe sex in order to get pregnant in the hope that it will win her the prize either. I don’t think a child should grow up without her father in her life, but I also don’t think that a grown, mature woman should stalk the wife of the man she is looking to steal, make snide comments about her, make up lies and false lawsuits to gain money and extort funds from an innocent family and call the police on a wife whose only “crime” is trusting her husband.

See, there are a lot of things that I think shouldn’t happen…but they do, and I have no more influence over HIS decision to not see this child than I do over world poverty.

My husband told his whore long ago, before I was even made aware, that he had no intentions of being present in the child’s life. He didn’t want the whore to have a delusional fantasy that they would start a new life together. He wanted it to be quite clear to her what the picture would look like if she chose to have his child out of spite. He made this decision independent of me, and voiced it to her long before I even knew.
So how exactly did I influence it if he told her himself that this was his intention?

“The man you won is a miserable coward”. This is a three parter, so lets tackle it that way:

Firstly, he isn’t something I won. I already had him. I wasn’t in a contest to win a prize. I am MARRIED to him and “won” his heart a long time ago. He wasn’t up for auction, or something I had to sway to be with me. He always was. You can’t win what is already yours to begin with.

Secondly, he isn’t miserable. He was in the beginning when the news first broke to me because he feared losing our family. Our family is the world to him, and we are his home. He has fought to reclaim us entirely and to prove himself worthy of us. He is far from miserable today. We are thriving, our children are growing and healthy, our marriage is strong and we are back to trust again. I’ve forgiven him, which was a long process, but he hasn’t forgiven himself. It is a scar he will always bear, but sweetheart, he isn’t miserable.

Thirdly, he is the furthest thing from a coward. He chose to tell me. That took strength and honesty. That took risk and integrity. He attended therapy, told my parents, apologized to my family, took it on the chin in shame for years, never once blaming me. He was my hero through the pain I felt. Coward? Hardly. The coward is the woman who continues to try and extort money from our family, who sends ridiculous and uninsightful emails to our lawyer using terms she scarcely understands, about concepts she is too stupid to wrap her feeble mind around. Cowardly is the woman who has to stalk and lurk in shadows. Cowardly is the woman who needs to try and steal another woman’s husband. Cowardly is creating false lawsuits and police claims to cause harm to someone out of jealousy. Cowardly is not having the strength to do the honorable thing and apologize to the woman whose life you turned upside down and ask for forgiveness. THAT is the coward.

“You are selfish, insecure, and won’t let go of his balls”

I’m selfish how? Because I want my family? Because I want my husband? Fighting for my family makes me selfish? How am I insecure? I’ve stood up and fought the fight of my life. I’ve defended my marriage. I’ve risked everything and claimed it back. I’ve seen the deepest and darkest places of pain and come out the other side. I am confident, self assured and deserving of every happiness that comes to me because I have fought for it and earned it. Insecure? Hardly. Insecure is the woman who steals a man because she doesn’t think she can be loved honestly or have the confidence to obtain a partner in an way free of lies, deceit and manipulation.

How is my blog a manifestation of ego and rage? If by ego, you mean that it’s “all about me”, you’re right…it is. It’s my blog and it tells my story. As for the rage…have someone come and do to you what has been done to me, and see how rage-filled you become. Thankfully my angry days are behind me. Instead I choose to forgive and wish happiness on those who wrong me. Their behavior speaks to a desperate need for more due to emptiness. Anger won’t solve their issues. All I can do is focus on me and wish her well. Rage? Once, yes. Rage no longer serves me. In fact, it never did…it just held me back.

As for “encouraging my husband to man up and be a father to his child”, I play no role in his choice. There are men who avoid child support. They refuse to pay or underpay. They disregard the children as their own and watch their kids fed with food stamps and dressed in secondhand clothes and do nothing about it. They watch their children deprived of food, clothes, a decent living, knowing that they could contribute. THEY need to man-up. My husband pays $4k PER MONTH for a child who doesn’t cost 1/4 of that. With his payment, that child can wear the best clothes, live in the best area and home, and have access to resources these deadbeat dads deprive their children of. Aside from meeting her, my husband makes sure she has more than enough. He’s meeting his obligation and beyond. He just hasn’t met her. It’s ok…the OW only wants his money, she doesn’t want him in her life and demanded sole custody.

I “repulse” this reader. Like telling a rape victim that she “deserved it”, or a mother whose child died of cancer that “she had it coming to her, this reader reads my story of victimization, betrayal, strength, perseverance, hope, work, support and strength and somehow feels repulsed by me? Interesting indeed….something tells me her name isn’t “Kate” if you know what I mean 😉

Anyone who says that has to be personally angry with me. I can only wonder why….nah, don’t care.

So, what are your thoughts on this laughable comment?

In his own words…


As many long-time readers and subscribers of this blog know, I have wanted my husband to document his journey in his words.  It’s hard to put the entire journey into one piece, because it spans many years, has many aspects (as you know from reading my side) and many turns, valleys and victories too.  To try and capture it all in one piece is impossible.  I hope he will write more, or compartmentalize the task into smaller sections and talk only about those things (i.e. his vulnerabilities at the time, his true feelings for the OW, why her, the struggle to free himself from the affair, the decision to tell me, the story of how he told me, the fallout, the healing, forgiveness etc.)

Four years ago I took the first step of a journey that would alter the course of my life.  I didn’t know it at the time, but by accepting an invitation from a co-worker to engage in an affair, my life would never be the same again.  It seemed relatively benign at the time.  A holiday from the “everyday” life of a busy professional.   A break from the stress that comes with entering middle age where one has to balance a busy career, a budding family, and ailing parents.  There was no balance, there was stress, hard work, and vulnerability.  In fact, the affair partner wasn’t even good looking!  My wife was and is a beautiful woman, she turns heads and commands a presence when she enters the room.  A woman that any man would be proud to marry.  When we started to date, I was surprised that she would even be interested in me – I felt that she was out of my league (as the saying goes).  By contrast my affair partner was short and stout, had a big butt and uneven breasts.  She used to make funny faces during intercourse that would freak me out, and sometimes turn me off.  Her breasts were fake, uneven, a no frills plastics deal.  She would walk into a room and typically pass judgement on people, make enemies, and develop a delusional condescending story about people.  I never knew if she was telling the truth or fabricating a lie.  I grew to question her words, her honesty, and her integrity.  So why did I engage in an affair with such a person??????  Why did I risk it all, destroy my life, and destroy the lives of those around me?

The question of why did I have an affair has been the focal point of self exploration for the past 4 years.  It is that question that has inspired me to depart from the safety of my “planned” life on a journey of exploration that will likely never end with an answer – only raise more questions.

My affair partner tricked me.  She told me that she was in love with a long term boyfriend.  They were living together.  Their relationship was as long as my marriage had been.  I discovered later that she lied about everything, there was no boyfriend.  Either way, I was made to believe that we were on equal footing and both taking an equal risk to be together.  She told me that it was just for fun, a holiday, and that at the drop of a hat, either one of us just had to say the word and it would end.  No questions asked!  No hard feelings!  No consequences!  This was safe.  What could be safer for a stressed out middle age professional who needed some kind of reprieve?  Life was hard for me at the time.  Some people turn to drugs and alcohol, I turned to sex.  Neither one a good solution.  I later discovered that people dig themselves deeper into a hole when they use a maladaptive response to a difficult situation because not only is one left with the difficult situation left unresolved, but they also have to contend with the consequence of their poor choices.   Instead of sitting down with my wife and sharing the burden of finding a solution to some of the challenges I was facing, a healthy choice that would have eventually brought us closer together, I sought out ways of resolving the situation on my own, and got caught up in an affair.

I like to believe that I am a powerful man.  A man who is in control of the situation around him, independent, successful, a go getter, a bread winner, a person above average.  I like to believe that I rise where all others fail.  I like to believe that I don’t need help.  However, over the years I have learned a very painful lesson.  I can’t do it myself.  Unlike my romantic notion of a hero who stands alone and wins the day, I have developed a wisdom – I cannot do it alone.  I require the help of others, and work best with others assisting me.  Unfortunately, my delusion of grandeur had led me into a trap.  I wasn’t able to do it alone, and as a result, I was failing.  As I was failing, I was vulnerable.  My affair partner identified my vulnerability and exploited it.  As I reflect on the affair, I believe that she did her homework.  She knew where I lived, the car my wife drove, my wife’s hairstyle.  She knew about things that I told her, and things that I did not tell her.  After all, what kind of strait guy discusses his wife’s hairstyle with anyone?  That should have been my first clue.  She was stalking me.  I was her project.

After my vulnerabilities were mapped out by this person, the rest must have been easy.  Just slip in and begin with intercourse, and the rest is driven by blackmail – and that’s exactly what happened:  My interests magically became her interests.  I was complimented, validated, and made to feel like the hero that I believed I should be.  But when I wanted to stop the affair, when I said we’re done the affair, the blackmail began.  She threatened to disclose it to my wife, my friends, my work colleagues, and my professional circles.  So I complied with her requests and continued our relationship.  I was trapped!  As long as I complied with her wishes, I would be okay, my world wouldn’t be torn apart, but if I didn’t comply, then she would rip me apart socially , personally, and professionally.  I stayed with her, I needed time to find a way out.

Stockholm Syndrome develops when the prisoner becomes close to their kidnapper.  This woman was tearing me away from everything that I held dear, against my desire to be with her, and yet I would engage with her in intercourse.  Stockholm Syndrome is the only way that I can understand and explain my actions.  My days were dark, I was in a prison, but walking amongst others.  I was beaten down, feeling powerless and did not know what to do.  Every day I hoped I would think of some kind of solution, but as her and I spent more time together, she trapped me even further.   I was sinking!

It all stopped when I took away her power over me.  I told my wife about the affair and braced myself for the storm that was to come.

The darkest days of my life had come upon me.  Attacked by my affair partner, and on loose footing in my marriage – my life had crumbled apart.  In order to put it back together I spent the next three years of my life seeking out wisdom to help me understand myself and the new world around me.  I have engaged in many conversations with my wife, counselors, friends, and advisors.  I have read books, scoured websites, and travelled to marriage enhancement retreats.  I have begun to understand the complexity of marriage, the fragility of marriage, and the reasons why over 50% of North Americans divorce.  I have understood my vulnerabilities, my strengths, and my shortcomings.  I have become wiser, more humble, and scarred.  I am no longer the man I was 4 years ago, and sadly my journey has taken me away from that man, the man I was before the affair, and I will not know him again.

So what have I learned?

Love.  I have learned about love.  I have learned that love is a conscious choice that we make every day.  It is not a romantic notion that sweeps us off of our feet, draws us in, and commands our lives.  I have finally understood what happens after the prince rides off with the princess into the sunset.  I have understood that loving another person is distinctly different than falling in love with that person.  The difference is that the act of falling in love is selfish, and short lived, while loving someone is selfless and infinite.  It’s confusing because the word “love” is used in both situations.

When one falls in love, they are overwhelmed with emotion for the person that they desire to have.  Their need to be with that individual is only satisfied by being with that individual. It is selfish.  I hate to sound unromantic but two people who have “fallen in love” are coexisting in a selfish state.  They are mutually fulfilling a desire to be with the other person.  In being together they are satisfying their own selfish need, and coincidentally satisfying their partner’s selfish need.  The “in love” phenomenon ends as the newness, or as some term it the “ Honeymoon” phase of the relationship comes to a close.  At the two year mark, the work of choosing to love another person begins.  This is selfless work to satisfy an altruistic desire to foster a partner’s growth, wellbeing and happiness.

I fell in love with my wife when we met, and I continue to love her.  Over the years, since the affair, I find myself seeking out to experience her pain.  I enter a frame of mind that I believe she may be in, and I experience her pain.  The feeling is chaotic and indescribable.  I can’t make sense of it, explain it, or relay it to anyone.  I can’t think of an analogous way to describe it.  It’s horrible.  It is pure pain and agony.  Sometimes it brings me to tears, but mostly it brings me beyond tears.  It’s hard to believe that the mind has the ability to transcend into such darkness, but it is how I would imagine feeling as death descends upon me.

I often engage in the act of empathizing with my wife.  She has struggles, as any person, and she is more feeling than I am.  As I experience that which I believe she experiences, I strive to understand her needs and desires, and I yearn to fulfill them.  When I make the choice to love her, I make the choice to let go of myself, my needs  and wants and to step into her world.  Only from there can I be the man who I want to be for her in order to create a world around her that will foster her personal needs and growth.

In addition to love, I have learned about the power of vulnerability.  We are all vulnerable.  Stress, hard knocks in life, our own insecurities make us vulnerable.  Anyone who can identify another’s vulnerabilities can exploit them for personal gain.  As I have learned about the notion of manipulation of others through their vulnerabilities, I have discovered the value and importance of privacy and intimacy.  Before the affair I lived an open life.  I knew that there were people who were extremely secretive, and I condemned them for their secrecy.  It seemed like they had a poker hand that they were slyly going to play at any given time.  I was proud to be open, transparent, and non secretive (with some socially appropriate exceptions).  In retrospect, it was a naive way to be.  My affair partner identified my needs, my weaknesses, and my insecurities.  Then she simply gave me what she believed would satisfy me.  She reeled me in close enough that she got her meat hooks into me.  Once I was trapped, her true colours came out.  I have learned that one must be aware of their vulnerabilities, whether it be work stress, a fight with the spouse, a sick parent, or conflict with their children.  By exposing this to others, one may place themselves at risk.  It’s not hard for a prospective affair partner to play the role of a perfect “friend” in order to draw a vulnerable person into an affair and to draw them away from a more constructive approach of solving their problems.

Lastly, I have learned about the fallibility of humanity.  Humans are imperfect!  I raise this point not as an acceptable excuse for my adulterous behaviour.  I raise it to emphasize the importance of a salad of human instinctive behaviours.  Firstly, tolerance, understanding, and acceptance:  I have been with my wife for nearly 16 years if we count the years we were dating.  Never had I cheated on her except in this affair.  In fact, I had never cheated on anyone who I had ever been with.  However, I have been labeled a philanderer.  Although not by my wife, I have been tried and sentence as a guy who will probably do it again – my historic track record of fidelity has been deemed unimportant.  I believe that it is a human quality to protect oneself from further pain by making such accusations.  In order to not rise up in battle against the unfounded notion that I would cheat again, I find comfort in accepting and understanding the source of the belief.  Second, there is a belief that knowledge and insight brings one illumination and growth.  Specifically, when I look back at my journey, am I a better man for taking it? Have I learned, have I changed?  I think we as humans have learned to believe that personal growth, knowledge, and insight are positive.  Ignorance, although blissful, is considered negative.  However, I have lived through the darkest days of my life over these years.  I almost lost everything that I had worked to build; money, career, and family.  I still have pangs of anxiety when my lawyer’s office contacts me with regards to requests from the affair partner (yes it went to the lawyers and to the courts).  I have no more benefit in my life from this experience than a concentration camp survivor has from their experience.  I just recognize that there can exist a very dark reality, and regretfully I partook in it.  Although maybe I need to have some further maturity around this point – all I can believe is that I wish I had never had the affair, I wish it never happened.    Thirdly, I feel aged.  This affair and the aftermath took the wind out from under my sails.  I don’t know if perhaps it’s just aging in general, but I find myself feeling older, looking older, and generally less ambitious than I have been in the past.  In recent years, I have become very aware of my humanity, fallibility, and mortality.

Over the years, I have made many attempts to write about my experience and my insights. I’ve had a lot of difficulty expressing my thoughts on this with clarity.  I hope to share my experience, the lessons learned, and the wisdom gained.  I hope to impart this wisdom to others who may walk down the same path.  It is my sincerest hope that no one ever does what I did as it will ruin their life, the life of their spouse and the lives of their children.

 

Feel free to ask any questions or make comments.  I will pass them along to him, and get him to reply to the specific comments directed at him.

 

Thanks for reading and for your continued support of our story.

Man of honor: words from a husband


My husband wrote me the following last night, after reading the previous blog entry. It speaks to his experience of the “man of honor” weekend, what he pulled from it, and how he sees his future.

I am sharing it in the hopes that it can help give some insights into his thinking on his affair.

With respect to the blog post that I prepared for you…I was disappointed that it did not speak to you in the way that I had developed it in my mind. I can see how you would receive it to be a disturbing, insensitive, and emotionless post. I was surprised that it came out to be that way – but I understand how it came to be, and I would like to share with you my thoughts.

I had spent a year developing various ways of expressing myself with regards to this very important post. One night, when I couldn’t sleep, I decided to sit down and spend a few hours writing. All I achieved was a chronology of the events of the year, and the recovery following. It was very unfulfilling, and added nothing new to the situation at hand. When I learned about the Man of Honour weekend, it gave me the hope that I would spend a weekend with men focussing on the affair, dissecting it, and rising to a revelation about the situation. In the end, I think that I did that. I regret that it’s not palatable to you. If there’s one thing that I learned from the weekend, it’s that men and women approach the affair situation in very different ways. It leaves me to wonder if the critical elements that are required for men to understand, digest, and recover from the affair are not, and perhaps never could be, the same kind of elements that are necessary for women to recovery irrespective of the gender of the perpetrator of the infidelity.

As the weekend progressed, I became acutely aware of a need to develop a vision of myself as the man who I want to be in the future. Clearly the man who I was in the past was not suitable. This vision is important not only because it of the way I want to see myself, but because it will engulf the man who I intend to be as a husband to you, a father for our children, and the career man who I want to be remembered as. People often use the idea of writing one’s own eulogy as a way of identifying the key means of direction for their moral compass. Bryan Bercht and the Man of Honour weekend helped me transcend that overused eulogy creating exercise. It was from that weekend that came my blog contribution.

There are three key elements that came out of the Man of Honour weekend that changed my vision of who I aim to be. The first is the notion of the Man of Honour, the second comes from the words of Victor Frankl, and the third is just me putting it all together into a vision of the future.

On Friday night, our group of approximately 20 men ate our dinner, we were engaging in polite conversation, and cautious of broaching the delicate issues of infidelity. We then assembled in a meeting room and upon the request of our leader, we assembled a list of qualities that we unanimously agreed would reflect a man of honour. I find it ironic that a group of men, disgraced by their infidelity, would have any right to develop a definition of the man of honour – it’s like asking a group of criminals to re-write the criminal code (with the anticipation that it would be a better document than the original). However, from the broken rubble of our lives, we developed the following list of characteristics that would represent a Man of Honour:

The qualities of a man of honour are:

· Honesty
· Integrity
· Trustworthiness
· Accountability
· Reliability
· Loyalty
· Courage
· Loving
· Committed
· Friendly
· Humble
· Compassionate
· Empathic
· Sincere
· Role model
· Patient
· A good listener
· Willing
· Transparent
· Victorious
· Enthusiastic
· Understanding
· Dependable
· Hard working
· Genuine
· Resilient
· Consistent
· A leader
· Forgiving
· Generous
· Strong sense of conviction (spiritual, hope, core values)
· Optimistic
· Perseverance
· Unselfish
· Cooperative
· Servant
· Team player
· Looking out for others

On the Saturday, our group hiked through the mountains of Colorado, 9000 feet above sea level with stones in our nap sacks, short of breath and tired. While we did that, we reflected on our lives, the damage that we caused, and tried to find ways to support one another in our journey (both to face the physical demands of the hike, and to help repair the emotional damage that we brought into our lives). Our course leader reminded brought our attention to Victor Frankl. Dr. Frankl was a Psychiatrist who was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. All members of his family, including his wife and brother were killed. Dr. Frankl survived and during his ordeal, he developed a philosophy and treatment methods that helped many people. The one point that struck me as most relevant to my situation was the Dr. Frankl stated “One cannot always control the circumstances that lead up to events that happen to them, but one always has control over their response to those circumstances.”.

Out of the rubble of my mistakes, I am actively building a vision of the person that I want to become. I want to be a man of honour. In fact, it’s sometimes a trigger for me that guides my values. It can be as simple as paying for street parking. It’s no longer about a desire to avoid a ticket, paying for a ticket to park on the street becomes a brick in the foundation that I am building to be a man of honour. It guides everything that I do. I sometimes fall short, but I continue to work at it regularly. The second part of that vision involves the words of Victor Frankl – I may not be able to always choose my circumstance, but I can always choose my response to those circumstances.

When I think back to my acts of adultery right now, I am in disbelief about my actions. Regret is an understatement. I have an incredible wife, wonderful children, and an enviable life, how could I have done what I did???? The act destroyed the lives of so many people-it’s truly unbelievable. To truly be a man of honour, I have to take accountability for MY actions. Naturally there were circumstances that were very difficult, but in the end, I chose the wrong actions! Dishonorable actions. Yes there were extreme circumstances, yes I was cornered, and yes I was isolated from anyone who could help me, but my personal recovery, my first step towards a more honourable life requires me to accept accountability for my actions –fully! Why? Am I being too hard on myself? No, because a man of honour must act with honour, dignity, and fortitude. The price for being a man of honour may be a high one, but the price for being a man of dishonour is even greater.

As I move into my mid forty’s I begin to see my mortality on the horizon. I don’t mean to evoke feelings of sadness or pity. In order to live a fulfilling life, one must be aware of their mortality. Recognizing that there is an ultimate finality, one’s actions are guided differently than that of a person who has no appreciation of the short time that we have on this planet. The way we experience the world, the decisions that we make, and the way we spend our days changes when the days become numbered. To that end, I bring the first part of my life to an end – I close that book altogether. It was formative, and I will never forget it, but I feel that it no longer represents the person who I am today. With the many lessons that I have learned, the experiences that I have had, the mistakes that I have made, and the triumphs that I have achieved, I begin to develop a map for the way I intend to live the second part of my life. Most importantly, I intend to live my life with honour.

I am sorry that I hurt your feelings with the blog post that I wrote for you. Perhaps I was too brash, bold, analytical. Too much time spent looking at the situation from above rather than experiencing the importance of the moment from within. I love you deeply and I find it hard to live with myself every day that I think about what I had done to you, to our family, and frankly to this world (albeit, very small part of the world). I am hopeful that by becoming a better man, a better person, a better husband I can make an impact and make it right.

Patching the life-raft


Making the conscious decision to cheat

Making the conscious decision to cheat

 

When you find yourself in the turbulent waters of an affair, and its disclosure, you find you will cling to anything that passes by in the hopes that it will carry you out of the mess.  That was the case for me.  Whether it was a gentle person willing to lend an ear, or a belief I held about WHY he had done what he had done, it didn’t matter.  I needed to cling to it.   In the case of the former, I would find myself almost desperate to talk to someone who understood and anytime someone would give *my* problem any time or attention, I was so grateful.  I never wanted them to stop listening.  I needed to talk, and I needed to be heard.  I think sometimes, I pushed people away who had offered to help, who perhaps just got tired of listening.

The thing most of us betrayed spouses are desperate to know is the WHY of what happened.  Knowing WHY it happened somehow gives us a sense of control that we feel we have lost.  If we know WHY, then we know HOW and we also feel more equipped to put things into place to prevent it from happening again.

When my husband laid out the timeline for me, he tried to help me understand the process.  I struggled with understanding how he could allow his affair to continue, especially after he started feeling guilty and knowing that what he was doing was wrong.  I had somehow convinced myself that he *fell into* the affair, however that may have happened, and that from that moment on, he was struggling to get out, stuck, strategically pinned by her threats and coercions.  I wanted to see my husband as a victim of hers.  It helped to see her as the only perpetrator against my marriage, and him as the victim who got swept away, and into something bad.

I then started to learn about what makes a man (or woman) vulnerable to an affair.  There are so many things.   I found myself looking at a list of real reasons for why he had done what he had done.  Stress at work, increased family stress (new baby), parental obligations and caregiver stress (father was in trouble with the law and as an only child was relied upon intensely to help a man who has never been able to help himself), etc.  Our list was long, when we reviewed how many of the vulnerabilities applied to him/us.   The list, once again, allowed me to see my husband as a victim of his circumstances.  He was, once again, a “nice guy who found himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, dragged into a situation unwillingly and then prevented from ending it due to ongoing coercion and threats to his livelihood and our family”.  At times, I felt bad for him, even though I hated what had happened.

Last week, the day before Mother’s Day, my husband wrote me a blog post for this blog.  I have been asking him to do so since May 2012.   I wanted readers to hear his side, his experience, instead of relying on stereotypes and false imaginations.  I hoped that his words would help others understand what happened to their spouses, and would outline the slippery slope that he found himself on, since so many men have the same pattern.   I waited patiently for a year, and then last week he wrote me something, and sent it to me the day before Mother’s Day.  I read it and cried.  I cried not because I was thankful.  I cried not because I was relieved.  I cried because the bubble I had built for myself in trying to get through the day to day of living with an adulterous husband and trying to rebuild my marriage, had popped.

In his first paragraph, he writes:

So when an attractive co-worker propositioned me to consider an extramarital relationship with her, my mind instantly raised every reason to do it.  It had brought to mind every tabloid that I had ever seen or read about infidelity and it’s seemingly benign outcome.  With that “well researched” information in mind, I proceeded to take that first step of my journey.  After all, I worked hard, my wife was busy with the kids, and I owed it to myself to have a change of pace, a treat, a break from my regular hectic, grueling, and stressful life.

My heart sank once again.  An old, familiar feeling.  The pit of ones stomach opening wide and swallowing them whole from the inside out.

His words showed me that he knew it was wrong before he started.  That he had consciously made the decision to engage in an affair, and that he sought out ways to give himself permission.  He thought of all of the times people had “gotten away with it”, or that it “hadn’t caused that big of an issue”, and hoped that would be the case for us.  After all, as he put it, he deserved it, and I was so busy with the kids.  Yes, busy with kids that we had decided to have together, for which I share 80-90% of the parenting responsibility.  I was busy.  I had a 18 month old, a toddler and a young child in my care while I worked full time.  But I guess because I was “so busy”, he felt he deserved what he calls “a treat”.  And here all this time, I have relied on the fact that he was in a fog, and unaware.  Relied on the idea that he was confused, and swayed.  Relied on the idea that he wasn’t in his right mind at the time, and unable to have seen clearly his path.  Reading this made me realize that he saw perfectly clearly his path.  He wanted a treat, a little heaven on the side…and hoped it wouldn’t cost him his marriage.

It made me sick to my stomach.  Happy Mother’s Day to me.

It goes to show, that even after one considers themselves “recovered”, they can still get caught up in old feelings, in sad realities, and be re-triggered.  I am only fresh on this healing path, and only recently consider myself “healed”.  I am sure I will have more of these, and should never have expected that the grey skies were behind me and only clear skies ahead.  I can still be spun backwards at times, and it no longer knocks me over and takes the breath out of me, but it sure does still hurt to hear/see those words, written by my husband to describe his feelings at the time.  Feelings which I guess I had re-written to suit my own abilities to cope with the truth.

I didn’t post the letter.  I simply can’t.  It doesn’t in any way reflect what I had hoped he would write about how he found himself in an affair.  It was analytical, unemotional, and jumps from discussions of meaningless sex as a teenager to the night we put our cat to sleep, neither of which had anything to do with me.  But hey, the letter does end with him saying how incredible I am.  Thanks. I’d kind of have to be in order to have stayed.

The life raft I had used to stay afloat suddenly had a hole and I felt like I was taking on water.  Needless to say, I am once again patching the holes to stay above water.

 

Becoming a man of honor


I know I talk a lot about the seminars led by Anne and Brian Bercht, author of “My husband’s affair became the best thing that ever happened to me”.

Anne Bercht Book on Infidelity

I do so because I believe strongly in what they do, both theoretically, but also practically, as I have participated in two of their weekends, and was asked to coach at upcoming seminars for betrayed wives.  They are the most compassionate couple, who sincerely want you to thrive, and find your way through this horrible experience.

There is a weekend designed exclusively for men, called “Man of Honor”.  This weekend, which takes place in a beautiful outdoor retreat in Colorado, allows men to come together and learn what it takes to be a man of honor, to build character worthy of respect, and to leave a legacy.  It welcomes unfaithful men, as well as men who have been betrayed.  This is the only seminar, other than the healing from affairs weekend for couples, where the betrayed and the unfaithful come together to learn, to share, and to grow.

I am pleased to say that my husband will be attending the upcoming weekend for men on May 3-5th, 2013.  Although he has come so far, and made great strides in repairing what he did through his affair, he still sees value in learning more, protecting more, and growing more.  I respect and admire that about him, and am pleased that he doesn’t ever consider himself “done”.  It is a lifelong growth curve that he feels he will always be on, and this issue and its ramifications will forever be in the wings of his mind, acting as a guiding force as he navigates boundaries with other women, co-workers, and friends.  This experience has shown him that this can happen to ANYONE, and that unless you are taking active steps to prevent an affair, thinking that you are immune is the greatest vulnerability your marriage will ever experience.

For anyone whose husband is struggling with how to support their betrayed spouse, for men who have healed but want to take it to the next level, for betrayed men who want answers to how to heal, and for any man who just wants to be BETTER, this seminar will get you there.  I respect and advocate for their work so much, I wanted to blog about it 🙂

It can be costly to attend these weekends…it’s true.  But, you also need to ask yourself how much it will cost emotionally and financially to lose your marriage?   It’s worth it.  Go.

Some words from my husband about LOVE


The day after I had posted about Valentine’s Day, and how the meaning for me has greatly shifted since his affair, but moreso since my view on relationships has become more….realistic, he sent me these words, and permitted me to post them here.  I thought I would share.

Last night after midnight, as I was leaving the work, tired, wasted, and with aching feet, I received your post about Valentine’s day.  What a painful way to feel – for you and all those partners of betraying spouses!  How sad it makes me feel that I did this to you, and how deflating it is to the spirit of love, on a day hallmarked by society to celebrate love!  It is further deflating that the feeling the betrayed spouse feels is even lower than that experienced by those without a partner to love on Valentine’s day.  That last point wasn’t explicitly stated, but inferred, at least to me, from the post.  And salvation from these feelings comes from gratitude for the small things, a manicure, not getting an STD, or visiting the salon……

On my lonely drive home, ridden with guilt and remorse for destroying your festive feelings of Valentine’s day, I started to ponder love.  Love for a spouse, a child, a parent, a cause, a nation…. Love for another person.  I realized in my thoughts that Love is gigantic!  It encompasses all that we do, all that we feel, all that we are.  It brings us joy, despair, and anger.  Love leads us to celebrate, to mourn, to laugh, and to cry.

Love is powerful!  It lifts us up when we are down, it fills our hearts when there is emptiness, and carries us when we have nothing left to give.  It drives us to win wars, perform superhuman acts, or reach farther than we ever thought that we could.  Love inspires us to create, build, and to strive.  Love unites us, divides us, and conquers us.

Love is simple.  It doesn’t require a contract, a building, or a permit.  It can be experienced by anyone,  animals, children, and friends.  It can happen anywhere, through any medium, and without special planning.

Love is deep!  No wonder love is symbolized by the heart.  It’s at the core of one’s soul.  It resides in the deepest and most sensitive part of one’s body.

So how does all this impact the couples who have lived through infidelity?  Those who were hurt by a spouse that strayed, became involved with another, and betrayed.  How can one celebrate their love of that person?

In our relationship, where I was the betraying spouse, it was my love for my wife that led me to spend day after day trying to win back her heart.  It was my love for her that led me to overcome my shame and announce my biggest mistake to strangers so that she could receive their support, even if it was at my expense.  It was my love for my wife that gave me hope during my darkest hours that maybe she will forgive me.  It was my love for my children, my wife, and my family that kept me from killing myself when I felt there was no reason for living.

In committing infidelity, our vows were broken and cannot be repaired, but the strength of our love transcended those vows.  Our love was the cement that held us together during the roughest challenge in our lives, and when all else failed, conversations, counselors, books, and friends, our love was there for us guiding a path for us to follow through this hurricane that we endured.

I never understood Valentine’s day the way that I understand it now, because I never experienced love the way that I experience it now.  I believe that Love is deserving of more than a single day.  Without feeling love I would not be here today.  I would not have had the fortitude to survive the ordeal that I survived, and I would not have had the perseverance stay on this course.  It was by far the most difficult experience of my life.

Now that I am through most of the storm of infidelity that I brought into our lives,  I am grateful for the existence of Valentine’s day.  It is a day that is devoted to thinking about Love, which is at the core of everything that we do.  I am grateful that it exists, because I have come to understand the meaning of love a little bit better than I did in the past.  I have come to appreciate the clichés about love:

  •  Love conquers all
  • All we need is love
  • At least we have our love
  • Without love there is nothing
  • ETC….

Those clichés have a new and deeper meaning to me.

I love you very much!  Sometimes I feel anger, and sometimes you do too.   That’s okay, because if there was no love, there would be nothing to get angry about.  Our love has moved mountains as it guided us through this most difficult time in our marriage.  I feel that should be celebrated.  So I got you a gift for valentine’s day.  If you don’t want to open it, and you don’t want to celebrate this day – I’ll understand.  I can take it back.  I don’t want to impose my beliefs upon you.  Every day that we experience love is a reminder of the power of love.

So I take this moment to wish you happy love day, happy every day!

Husband

Drip…drip…drip…The danger of the “trickle-truth”


Screen Shot 2013-02-06 at 9.34.18 PM

Trickle-truth: A phenomenon whereby an individual who has betrayed their partner reveals the complete truth s little at a time, as opposed to all at once.

You either have a denier, a gusher or a trickler. A denier will deny the affair is happening, and make you feel like you are going crazy, filling you with self-doubt. A gusher will explode with all of the truth right away, whether they were caught or whether they willingly disclosed. A trickler, on the other hand, reveals information slowly, over time, possibly telling lies to conceal certain aspects of the truth until they are ready to let them out in a slow and controlled way, thereby delaying the betrayed partner from having the “complete truth” for some time.

Do you have a denier, a gusher or a trickler?

I had a gusher, and I am thankful.

First of all, I should back up one step. Before the truth can come out or be received, the betrayed partner needs to decide at what pace they wish to receive the truth, and how much detail they want/need. Not everyone needs or wants the details. I am NOT one of those people. I wanted to know as much about the affair as my husband did. I didn’t like knowing that another woman knew more into that window of his life than I did, and so I set out to see the affair through his eyes, to share in the details and not feel as though I was left out. So, for me, having a gusher was a good thing.

Aside from complete denial of the events, trickle-truths have to be the most damaging thing to the healing process, second only to finding out that your affair never ended, after being told it had (but that is another blog post for another day). And so I write this blog post for the spouse who betrayed. Yes, you…I am talking to YOU this time.

Being betrayed hurts. It hurts like hell. There is no greater hurt imaginable. Whether you were discovered accidentally, or whether you came clean and told your partner you had an affair, the simple fact is that you committed a crime against your marriage, and have changed your spouse forever. The hurt that comes from the betrayal of the most intimate part of your life is intense. But what carries more weight than the details of your behaviour during your affair are the details of the behaviours you exhibit AFTER disclosure. Whether you are aiming to reconcile or whether you are headed towards separation or divorce, your partner is going to want to know what happened. BEing cut out of someone else’s life, and having a secret life outside of them is hard to wrap your head around. When your whole world comes crashing down, and you are given the devastating news, you really do start to question what was ever “real” in your life. In order to make sense of the information, many betrayed spouses find themselves asking a ton of questions designed to pieve together the puzzle, create a timeline of events, and make sense of what happened. It isn’t enough to know that you cheated. We want to know where, when, how often, with whom, in what way, what you did, and most of all WHY you did it. We want to know if she was prettier than us, if she was smarter, if she was better in bed, if she was thinner, if she made you laugh more, if she was….better. Whether you are uncovered or disclosed, your opportunity for some sort of redemption is NOW. You are already found-out, you really have nothing else to lose. So, why do the trickle-truth way of concealing certain details, only to reveal them later? Don’t you know that is more hurtful to us? All you are doing when you do that is protecting yourself, and once she realizes you aren’t being forthcoming, she will see that you are once again thinking only of NUMERO UNO, and not putting her needs first.

I know that you feel ashamed. Maybe you feel angry because your secret has been uncovered, and you feel like you can no longer partake in your extra-marital activity. Regardless, all you want is for it all to go away. If you could snap your fingers and make her “reset”, whereby she is aware of the affair, but never raises it, doesn’t cry, doesn’t ask questions, doesn’t hold it over you, and doesn’t threaten to leave…I bet you’d snap those fingers. I know that anytime I’ve felt shame, I’ve just wanted to hide and come out when it is safe, has blown over, and people have forgotten about it. I get it. But, let’s face it, you did something pretty vile, and you need to take responsibility for your actions and the hurt they have caused. Telling the truth is only part of what is necessary, so I start there.

When your hurt partner asks you for the truth, they want it. They NEED it. You hold the key to their healing, and if you deny them the truth, you deny them healing, or at best, you delay their healing. Neither are good options. I firmly believe that people ask questions at the time when they are ready to receive them. In the case of infidelity, I think this is an exception to that rule. Sometimes a partner asks for the truth, demanding it immediately, only to discover that they aren’t emotionally ready to process what has been offered. The betrayed spouse has a responsibility in asking ONLY THOSE QUESTIONS THAT THEY ARE PREPARED TO HEAR THE ANSWERS TO. You will need to talk together about how fast and how much, but just knowing that you are giving it ALL to her/him at the speed at which S/HE needs to hear it is so comforting.

I look at it this way: The affair was a wall between you and your spouse. Your activities were completely hidden behind the wall. When the affair was blown open, it threw open a window between you and your spouse. She can see you, and you can see her. She might even be able to climb through the window to meet you on the other side. But, each time you tell the truth in a way that shows her that you concealed it previously, the window closes by an inch. With each concealed lie slowly making its way to truth, the window openings gets smaller and smaller until you find yourselves on two opposite sides of the window, unable to cross through to the other person. Your window, right after the affair is the widest it will ever be. Keep it that way by telling the truth as you are asked. Each time you do, the truth helps prop the window open, making it more likely that you can 1. See each other better, and 2. One of you will make the overture to join the other on their side.

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It sounds silly, but in the wake of my husband’s affair, while I was reeling in pain, the one thing I could feel comforted by was knowing that although it felt I had momentarily lost him to the other team, knowing that the truth was given freely each time I asked felt like he was coming back to mine. Knowing that I could access the information that I needed whenever I needed it, allowed me to feel as though I was strangely in control of something. When you learn of your partner’s affair, suddenly you are strapped into a roller coaster ride that you never intended to board, and you feel as though your life has run away with you, and you aren’t in control of anything. Your partner cheated, perhaps the other party is making demands or acting like a nuisance…either way, you feel out of control. Having the information as I needed it allowed me to feel some small semblance of being in control of my self.

For me, I wanted the information right away. I told my husband to give it all to me at once. When he disclosed, I felt as though my world was pulled out from under my feet. I had fallen down, and getting up felt like an insurmountable task. The last thing I wanted was to stand up, knowing the truth I had, bearing weight on my legs again, only to have them swept out from under me again with some new unexpected information. I wanted it all at once – quick – like a bandaid. I figured: “knock me down, beat me up, kick me while I am down here. But, so help me God, if I have to get up and be knocked down again….I don’t think I will get up the next time”.

My husband was forthcoming with the information I needed. It was one of the factors that allowed him to restore my trust in him. Had he withheld, told me slowly, or concealed further, it would have added insult to injury. It would have left me feeling as though he didn’t respect me enough to tell me the truth. It is one thing to conceal an affair when it is a secret. It is entirely another to be given a chance to come clean by someone who is begging you for the truth, and then deny it knowing how much it means to them. When you are in the affair, you can rationalize why s/he doesn’t need to know. You can justify your actions and secrecy by saying that she wouldn’t want to know. But when s/he stands in front of you, a broken person, and begs you to tell the truth, and you don’t….on purpose…you are simply someone holding onto a large cold glass of water, and depriving the parched and dehydrated person in front of you from taking a sip.

Now, if you are the betrayed spouse, there is a way to minimize trickle-truth. Remember, that trickle-truth tends to happen because the unfaithful partner feels scared and ashamed. They are less apt to tell you the complete truth if they think it will harm them (you will walk out, you will threaten to take the kids, you will divorce them), or if they think you will use whatever information they provide as ammunition against them later. Remember that you too have a role here, and that is that if you are going to ask for the information, you have to promise to use it internally only, for your own knowledge, and that you won’t turn it around and use it as poison. No one will offer you a vial of poison if they think you are going to turn around and pour it down their throat. Reassure your partner of why you want to know, and that you won’t hurt them with the information. Reassure them that although it might hurt YOU like hell, that you will do your best to process the information that comes in a way that is healthy and helpful to both of you.

Being betrayed hurts. Being deceived after the betrayal is uncovered is just further disrespect. You don’t have to spill it all in one episode, but the simple act of reassuring the betrayed spouse that you will do your best to give her the information as you remember it, when asked, is a huge step forward and earns big points.

Betrayed spouses: Be prepared for some of the answers that you do get to be “I don’t remember”. This is especially true if the unfaithful spouse is male. Men simply don’t remember the details the way us women do. We remember what he was wearing, what cologne he had on, whether it was breezy out…he simply doesn’t look for, appreciate, or need that detail in order to live his life, so he may not have made that mental note. But, don’t fret, those memories can come back, if they are given time to percolate. The important thing is that the unfaithful spouse doesn’t start creating details that weren’t accurate simply for the purpose of ‘having an answer’. That helps no one, and can do more harm than good. If you don’t know – say so. If you spontaneously remember in a few days, gently remind your partner that you’ve had a breakthrough memory of the events s/he was asking about, and ask when it would be a good time to share it.

Healing can only begin once the truth is known. Finding out weeks or months later that the “truth” you thought you had wasn’t the truth at all can cause significant setbacks in healing. If you want to move forward to a place where forgiveness is possible, a place where she doesn’t “bring it up anymore”, where she doesn’t “ask anymore questions”, and where the affair no longer dominates discussion, remember that truth now brings healing later. Truth later, brings healing even later. In a nutshell: You need to sit in the shit before you can get out and towel off. Be willing to jump in.

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